Former two-time heavyweight champion of the world George Foreman celebrates his 70th birthday this week (Jan. 10) and, with the passing of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, “Big George” is the oldest surviving former heavyweight king. Also, in the opinion of many, the man who ruled the world from 1973 to 1974 and again from 1994 to 1997, is the greatest living heavyweight. Some point to Larry Holmes (who turns 70 this November and of course ruled from 1978 to 1985), but from this seat Foreman trumps “The Easton Assassin,” by just a little bit.
Foreman was also an Olympic gold medal winner of course, and Foreman made boxing history by becoming the oldest-ever heavyweight champ in 1994 when he came from behind and sensationally flattened the unbeaten Michael Moorer (who had himself just made boxing history by becoming the first-ever southpaw heavyweight champ). With his rock chin, his freakish strength and power, Foreman overcame faster boxers, younger boxers and even cleverer boxers. Foreman is in many categories all by himself as a result.
The next oldest surviving former heavyweight kings after Foreman and Holmes are: Leon Spinks, who was champ in 1978, Mike Weaver, who ruled as WBA champ from 1980 to 1982 and Gerrie Coetzee, who held the WBA belt from 1983 to 1984. Interestingly, the oldest surviving pro fighter of them all is former light-heavyweight Billy Fox. Fox, who turns 93 on January 29th, is of course most famous for his fixed fight with former world middleweight king Jake LaMotta (who, as fans know, passed away last year at the advanced age of 95).
After all the sacrifices they made in the ring, outside of it also, each and every former champ deserves as long and healthy a life as is possible after hanging ’em up. Here’s to many more birthdays to come for greats Foreman, Holmes and all the others who are still with us.
“Big George” is as active, as busy as ever and it really is quite something that the one-time brooding and bad tempered puncher has long since morphed into the sport’s elder statesman. Happy birthday, champions all.